Healthy economy needs good graduation rates

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Saying an economic recovery will depend on well-educated, well-trained workers, President Barack Obama in his Jan. 24 State of the Union address called on students to stay in school.

He urged states to pass laws requiring students to stay in school until they graduate, or until they are 18 years old. Twenty states have done that, the president said.

Maine law says every child must remain in school until she or he turns 17.

The dropout problem won’t be solved by compulsory attendance, Matthew Stone of the Maine Department of Education said. Maine’s energy should be directed to making sure every student has access to an education that’s engaging and relevant, and allows the student to learn in a way that’s best for the individual.

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The federal government measures graduation rates as how many students began as freshmen and finished four years later. The rates do not include students who need another year to complete high school, or those who continue their education at adult education programs.

Another statistic is the dropout rate, which is the number of students in grades 9-12 students who left school in a given year. The two sets of numbers are different.

These numbers were gathered from local school departments. Not all districts had 2011 numbers available. The Maine Department of Education won’t release the 2011 numbers for several months.

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